The Motion of Emotion
By H. P. Guest Contributor
Drops of saltwater accelerate when a 9-year-old girl’s life changes. The news reached the chapel: “Yailyn, your life is going to change. You’ll soon be reunited with your mother.” The church bells were exhausted, and as my hypothalamus processed the information, I cried, “I don’t want this change!” “I refuse, I refuse, I relinquish!” Unaware that this event would alter my life, an emotion was unlocked—anxiety. The anxiety mounted once I was on the flight from the Dominican Republic to the United States. How would I greet her?
The airport lights dimmed and my eyes began to water as she approached me. She hugged me, and I blurted out, “Mom?” The temperature dropped, the suitcases’ wheels sounded louder, and my world was complete. The moment of reconciliation. Our relationship was strained, and I never forgave her for leaving me. Where is the motherly affection? No hugs, no tenderness, lots of judgment and rules. A year in, I developed depression. As a balm, I focused on school full-time and the salvation of reading.
Seven years passed, and my sophomore year in high school was going perfectly. One summer day, Mamí announced, “We’re moving to Connecticut.” These words reached the Lower East Side and echoed back to 174th Street in Washington Heights. I laughed, “You’re joking, right? Why would we move?” I thought: not this again! All I wanted was to stay with my dad in New York, instead of following my mother’s decision to have another baby and uproot me! The birds sang louder in winter, the moon shattered the sun, and then it went quiet. In Connecticut I was the “new Latina.” My everyday cycle was: school, track, chores. During that time I learned to make wise choices.
I graduated from high school and she was proud of me. I had my job, and I had earned money for college. I was accepted to Utica with a full ride, and I was excited. A tsunami was soon to reach my room—my mother made her next decision for me, “You are only 17. Utica’s too far. YOU CAN’T GO.” I screamed and cried. I decided to go to community college, and she didn’t interfere. I had hoped to live the college experience at Utica, but instead I got the Walmart version of college.
I would ask myself, “What’s the purpose of being here?” Until one day I was in anthropology class and the professor showed a slide of a Chinese symbol: “Yue.” The meaning is music, but “Yao” means medicine. “Yue” and “Yao” were what I was searching for. I was inspired to become a nurse right then: of being able to provide harmony in my life as well as to others. Was my passion predestined? Having nursed my grandmother made me realize that I wanted to be part of the medical field. I am becoming a nurse (RN) because I love everything about it: the amount of work, effort, competition, and fulfillment.
My mother learned to value me. I was always there for her, particularly this year, when she was diagnosed with a suprasellar brain tumor. Finally, she was willing to let me fly. I found my major at community college, bought my first car, and saved money. Struggling and surviving helped create my success. During these two years of college I developed a new emotion: hope. It has seen me through my worst disappointments. I did hate my mother for all she did, but also I know why she did it.
I see my 9-year-old self: fragile, innocent, and unaware. I want to shout to myself: “Changes will be tough!” Now, the church bells ring in symphony, and as my prefrontal lobe processes the information, I think, “Yailyn! Your life is going to change!” All I could say to my younger self is, “ I accept , I accept, and I flourish.”
Photos of Denmark courtesy of Flemming Madsen